Monday, July 31, 2006

Reply All

I got an email today. It’s like many others I’ve received since 2003, inviting readers to drop by a particular website and drop a “thank you” note into a group of messages destined for our military personnel overseas. I don’t doubt you’ve gotten similar messages.

But for whatever reason, today’s really stuck with me, wriggling under my skin like a persistent itch. So, I sat down, intending to hit “reply all” and send my rebuttal to some 2 dozen co-recipients.

After typing most of it, I thought better of my breach-of-etiquette and thought I’d just send it off to the individual sender. But that didn’t seem like enough, as if it's a violation of Blogger Law to write anything longer than 2 paragraphs and then fail to post an entry about it.

So, here 'tis. Everyone in my address book got a copy. I'll let you know if I get any (unlikely) negative responses.

Today’s email:

WHAT A GREAT IDEA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Click on the web address and send a card to one who is serving our country for your freedom......
This was just sent to me. How AMAZING if we could get everyone we know to send one.
If you go to the web site at you can pick out a thank you card and it will be sent to a soldier that is currently serving in Iraq. You can't pick out who gets it, but it will go to some member of the armed services. It only takes a second and wouldn't it be wonderful if they received a bunch of these.

Please tell all your friends about this site!

This was my reply:

I love ideas like this, to be sure, and have heard stories from soldiers that are immeasurably grateful for these kind of supportive gestures. I don’t mean for a minute to discount them in any way. Please do participate. Send your packages and your love every chance you get. It’s the very least we can do.

That said, this is exactly that, the “least”. There is more we can do for these brave men and women that are dying in droves for our country.

What, precisely?

Hold our executive and legislative branches accountable for what is a horribly and incompetently managed war.

Whether you supported the initial incursion into Iraq or not, whether you believed the Bush administration had noble goals for the region, it is hard to argue, credibly, that these goals have been achieved. Instead, over 2500 of our best and bravest are dead.

Plans for troop reduction are being shelved and these magnificent people are being relegated to a police action in Baghdad. Our resources are tapped while the entire Middle East becomes more chaotic every day. This is not solely a political problem. This is not a partisan issue. Only the most strident, and least informed, supporters of this effort maintain that Iraq has, and continues, to go swimmingly.

You and I, us “regular people” know different, though don’t we?

How many military families need state assistance just to feed and house their children? The numbers are shocking (25,000 families are eligible), and rarely discussed on the likes of Fox news.

How many soldiers have been literally blown to bits for lack of armor and equipment? According to some, a significant portion (80% of dead Marines for example) of the total lost.

How many returning soldiers are being cut off from desperately needed medical and metal health services thanks to callous cuts to VA funding? Nearly too many to count without being left with nothing but rage and despair. ($25 billion in cuts were just approved by Congress, in fact).

Supporting our troops can be much more than letters, flags and yellow ribbons. In fact, these are all hollow, meaningless gestures if we continue to elect those that enable, if not actively support, the kind of disgraces mentioned above.

Contrary to what our President would have us believe, “Staying the course” is not a strategy, it is not an ideal, and it is certainly not logical. As children, we learn to vary our techniques when old approaches fail. We learn critical thought and assessment in the hopes of learning how to respond to a changing world. And when one method fails, another is utilized. “Staying the course” is equivalent to refusing to admit mistakes, refusing to acknowledge the rising tide of public opinion (you know, those pesky constituents our leaders are supposed to REPRESENT), and refusing to take responsibility for our choices and our reality. This is not a complicated concept. Who do we respect more, the stubborn and recalcitrant or the creative and innovative? America was built by the blood, sweat and tears of the latter, if we’ll recall our 8th grade history lessons.

As such, I beg:

Get your news from multiple sources. If you must watch Fox, balance it out with, say, the BBC perhaps. Visit aggregate sites like this one that provide access to news from across the world. Read alternative press. Read blogs. There is so much information right at our fingertips that even our crowded, hectic lives can no longer excuse limiting ourselves to traditional corporate media. And remember: History is always written by the winners, and the winners are not always right (or truthful). There is far more going on than what we’re shown on Fox/CNN/MSNBC.

Get up to speed on Congressional races in your state. Our voter turn out is generally deplorable in a Presidential election, much less a Congressional one. Where do your local candidates stand on the war? On VA funding? On foreign policy? The people you send to Washington DC are the same ones that approve the decimation of VA resources and services, that approve wholly inadequate budgets for equipment, the ones that refuse to exercise their most critical responsibility: to serve the people. If you have any objection to the actions of your President, on any level, consider who made his actions possible: the United States Congress. (Well, aside for those 750+ “signing statements” in which Bush told Congress to “go &%$^ yourselves”, but that’s another discussion for another day.)

It shouldn’t take but a few moments with Google to find out these answers regarding your local representatives. In the time it takes to watch the current “American Idol”, you can learn crucial information about the people that represent your voice in your government. If their individual websites do not clearly outline their respective positions, send them emails and ask questions. If their staffers respond slowly or not at all, consider yourself warned about the candidates’ concern for their constituents. At the end of the proverbial day, our voices are all we have in a democracy. If you give up that right, give up your chance to be heard, then you give up your claim of patriotism and abandon your civic responsibility. Whether or not you have a ribbon on your bumper means nothing against that.

Listen to what returning Iraq and Afghanistan vets have to say. Turn off Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, and listen to the words of ACTUAL VETERANS. The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and Soldiers for the Truth are good places to start. There are an increasing number of veterans running for Congress in the upcoming election. That the majority of them are running as Democrats should tell you something.

We can always send letters, fly flags, and decorate our bumpers with stickers and ribbons. And these are nice things, absolutely.

However, if you want to genuinely HELP these magnificently brave and selfless individuals, do something really meaningful:

Get Informed.
Ask Questions.
Demand Accountability.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Brilliant, Every Time

If you're not reading One Pissed Off Liberal, you're missing some of the best writing in the blogosphere.

Seriously. It's folks like this that make folks like me think we might better just stick to our grocery lists.

OPOL's page at MyLeftWing

OPOL's page at DailyKos

God, I love this medium. It's encouraging to see ever-more jewels hidden in the rubble of what passes for political commentary these days. And without blogs, we'd miss most of them. Can you imagine Time Magazine ever having the balls to publish writers like this?

GOP Staffer Canned

As you may or may not be aware, the Ohio Restoration Project is a real piece of work. If you ever need to cite an example of why lefties tend to loathe the Christofacist arm of conservative politics, look no further.

Bill Moyers, in his usual eloquence:

Let's take a brief detour to Ohio and I'll show you what I am talking about. In recent weeks a movement called the Ohio Restoration Project has been launched to identify and train thousands of "Patriot Pastors" to get out the conservative religious vote next year. According to press reports, the leader of the movement - the senior pastor of a large church in suburban Columbus - casts the 2006 elections as an apocalyptic clash between "the forces of righteousness and the hordes of hell." The fear and loathing in his message is palpable: He denounces public schools that won't teach creationism, require teachers to read the Bible in class, or allow children to pray. He rails against the "secular jihadists" who have "hijacked" America and prevent school kids from learning that Hitler was "an avid evolutionist." He links abortion to children who murder their parents. He blasts the "pagan left" for trying to redefine marriage. He declares that "homosexual rights" will bring "a flood of demonic oppression." On his church website you read that "Reclaiming the teaching of our Christian heritage among America's youth is paramount to a sense of national destiny that God has invested into this nation."

The folks at Street Prophets have been keeping an eye on these wackos, so be sure to check out some of their entries if you're getting up to speed.

Beyond the sport of oggling at wingnuts, their existence is politically relevant due to their near orgiastic support of Ken Blackwell, Ohio gubernatorial candidate. And, as you're surely aware, Ken Blackwell is inextricably linked to the sickening array of voting problems in Ohio surrounding the 2004 Presidential election.

So, today, I'm skimming headlines and come across this from Raw Story:

COLUMBUS - The Ohio Republican Party fired a staffer Thursday for sending inflammatory e-mails about Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland that Democrats labeled "gutter politics."

The messages, sent to GOP supporters, questioned Strickland's ministerial credentials, his toughness on child predators and his and his wife's sexual orientation.

Gary Lankford, a Christian school headmaster and former director of the Ohio Restoration Project, was let go over the postings, said Jason Mauk, the state party's political director.

The party hired Lankford to coordinate the GOP's outreach to social conservative groups. Ohioans for Ken Blackwell, the campaign of Strickland's GOP opponent in the Nov. 7 election, paid him $15,000 during the primary for "voter contact," state records show.

Ohio GOP Chairman Bob Bennett said Thursday he did not see Lankford's e-mails before they went out and that they crossed the line.

"I will not tolerate anything like that. That's not how I run the party," Bennett said. "Unfortunately, I was a little slow to react to this."

Democrats, who said they first learned of the messages through news reports, blasted Lankford's postings, which he encouraged recipients to forward to others.

"This is the worst kind of innuendo and gutter politics, like you used to see in the 19th century. It's sleazy," said Brian Rothenberg, a spokesman for the Ohio Democratic Party.

Strickland called the firing appropriate.

"I would like to be able to take Mr. Bennett at his word when he says we ought to focus on the issues that are important to Ohio," he said. "That's what I've been doing my entire campaign."

He said the party should have been wary of Lankford, who had worked for the Blackwell campaign and the Restoration Project, a politically active, conservative Christian group. "He was not an unknown quantity," Strickland said. [Emphasis mine]

"Not an unknown quantity". Of course he wasn't. And I can't think of a single liberal that will be at all surprised that tactics such as these spring so easily from the loins of the ORP (or the GOP, for that matter).

Which leads me to wonder --

Given what we've seen from the neo-con religious right, when the FUCK are we going to stop giving the benefit of the doubt to ANY blowhard that claims to be a Christian? You know what? The legitimately pious people I've met in my life very rarely volunteer their religious affiliation, and instead, demonstrate what they believe by what they DO.

Since when did this kind of metric become passe? And worse, who the hell is falling for it? Not the religious people whose blogs/articles I read. They recognize shit when it's piled up and steaming at their feet.

One can only conclude that the voters supporting groups like the ORP are the worst kind of "Christians". You know, the kind that treat Sunday services like cocktail hour at a country club, who claim affiliation with no more gravity than that awarded to brands of peanut butter, and who cherry pick their way through the Bible looking for tools with which to oppress anyone they don't like.

This is hardly a ground-breaking analysis of far too many "values-voters" in this country. However, the assumptions we make about so-called Christians in politics is in virtual opposition to how they ACTUALLY BEHAVE. And yet, we see stories like that referenced in Raw Story, in which it's actually "news" when these ratfuckers reveal themselves for what they actually are.

If we're at all serious about throwing off the yoke of neocon fundamentalism in this country, how about refusing to assume that anyone claiming to be a "Christian" is automatically a good guy? How about assigning their religious affiliation no more significance that their hair color and get on with watching what they do and what they say?

These despicable people are only as powerful as we let them become, since we're the ones swallowing their bullshit with nary a blink. Wake up, people.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Investment in Ego

For some time now, I've been suggesting that one of the possible reasons that Bush maintains some degree of support is due to the sheer ego of those supporting him.

They've not only invested their vote, their lone political voice in the process, but in defending this man and his policies, they've also put their own egos, their own reputations on the line. They've made firm, loud proclamations of what a "great leader" Bush is, even in the face of grand fiascos, foreign and domestic.

I don't think these folks are intellectually incapable of seeing the folly of their position. Instead, I think that their egos are fully and totally in control and will simply not allow them to admit they were wrong in their assessments.

Now, the tendency isn't so implicitly horrible, and it's certainly not limited to conservatives. It's a fundamental human trait, for better or worse, and we're all prone. Go ahead and try and tell Mommy that her 65 pound three-year-old is overweight and be prepared to hear a dissertation on what it means to be "big boned".

However, there comes a point in any responsible person's life at which they recognize the disconnect between their fealty and their reality, and if they've any sense of ethics at all, concessions are made in favor of what's plainly been established.

And herein lies the problem, as I see it. Bush's loyal fans have shown themselves to be plainly irresponsible. They don't care that his failures are nearly beyond counting. They don't care that he's surrounded himself with nefarious sycophants and abdicated the power of his role to some of the most greedy, corrupt and calloused human beings to ever sit in Washington.

Why such apathy? Because they steadfastly refuse to acknowledge the grievous mistake of voting for GW, for sending a GOP majority to Congress, and for enabling the virtual destruction of American democracy as we know it.

Marc in KS picks up this headspace and helps explain it using an economist's frame, in discussing the "sunk-cost effect". Check it out.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Can I Get an Amen?

Pastor Dan linked today to a post I'd missed a while back. I'm grateful. It's one you shouldn't miss.

Why don't ALL religious leaders have this kind of plain-spoken common sense? Imagine the kind of world we'd be living in, if this was how James Dobson spoke.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Nice Shades, Condi

Is it just me?

Did you see the footage yesterday of Ms. Rice sitting at the long conference table with the Lebanese PM & the gaggle of assorted officials?

I don't know about you, but seeing the whole table full of terribly serious men in terribly serious suits, while Condi sat there with her sunglasses perched atop her head was just too much. She looked like she was waiting for someone to bring her a fucking daquiri.

Condi, listen up. I don't know what you were trying to convey at this photo op, but somehow "just breezing in for a quick chat on my way to a BBQ" is not what we need from the country's lead negotiator. Particularly during a visit to the part of the world that generally doesn't think too highly of women to begin with.

Put your shades away, comb your hair, and present yourself like a grownup before you're eaten by your own.

Update: Steve Soto found the photo I couldn't, and evidently agrees:

I’m sure we are all feeling more optimistic about things in the Middle East knowing that Condi has arrived in Beirut this morning for a set of photo op meetings with the Lebanese leadership, to tell them how concerned she is that the IDF is blasting the Lebanese infrastructure back to the Dark Ages. After this meaningless stopover today, she will fly on to Tel Aviv and tell the Israelis virtually nothing of substance, and the IDF will continue their campaign against Hezbollah and the Lebanese people unimpeded for as long as they feel necessary.

What impression do you think it leaves with the Lebanese people and the Arab world to see a Secretary of State who can’t be bothered to pull her sunglasses off the top of her head when meeting with a head of state whose country is being obliterated with American armaments?

(Emphasis mine)

But he answers his own question, of course; the shades are her tell. Ah, subtext. Such fun!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Saddles on Dust Bunnies

Thought I was dead, didn't ya?

I can't blame you for the speculation.

For those interested in defenses, it's primarily been simple outrage fatigue. I mean, my GOD. How does anyone with an IQ over room temperature manage to watch one evening's news without feeling morose? To say nothing of what it does to you when you're like me, and read blogs intermittently every day. Christ on a kabob. It's enough to make you need meds. Seriously.

As for the rest, I've just had my hands full. Moving, getting settled, an increasingly active toddler, all make for just enough time to read, but virtually none for writing. I've tossed in a few smart assed comments at some of my favorite blogs, threw my two cents in Meta-discussions where appropriate, but beyond that, the most inspiring thing to flow from these fingers have been my
grocery lists.

That said, I'll be focusing on this cobweb farm more closely in the weeks to come. I can't promise every entry will be strictly political, despite my original intent. I'm just not newsie enough to maintain such a course, and seriously, it's not like there's a shortage of insightful analysis abundant on the Big Blogs.

So, to those of you still actually visiting, I thank you for your loyalty, however possibly misguided. Given that I can probably count y'all on one hand, maybe I should just make you contributors. I mean, as long as we're all here, might as well open the floor, eh?